JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — About a thousand members of hard-line Islamic groups marched Friday in Indonesia's capital to denounce a government plan for an investigation into anti-communist massacres in 1965, saying it would help revive communism in the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Researchers estimate the military and religious groups killed a half million people in attacks on suspected communists and sympathizers that ushered in the 32-year rule of dictator Suharto.
The protesters, organized by several groups including the Islamic Defenders Front, known by its acronym FPI, rallied peacefully outside the tightly guarded presidential palace, in a sign of the deep divisions within Indonesia over what rights groups say was one of the worst atrocities of the last century.
FPI has a long record of vandalizing nightspots, hurling stones at Western embassies and attacking rival religious groups. The vast majority of Muslims in the nation of 250 million practice moderate Islam.
The demonstrators shouted "Crush communists, down with PKI," referring to the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party, and called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to stop his support for the investigation.
Banners and signs carried by the marchers read "Save Indonesia from communists" and "Don't say sorry to PKI."
Some retired army generals were among the participants.
"We have conveyed our demands to the government: Don't apologize to PKI, it will help revive communism in this nation," said Kivlan Zein, one of the retired generals.
In Indonesia, widely accepted accounts of the era gloss over the deaths, and descendants of Communist Party members are stigmatized and face legal discrimination that prevents them from holding government jobs.
In April, the government convened an unprecedented discussion of the massacres that brought together survivors and representatives of the military. It led Jokowi to order officials to start documenting the locations of mass graves of the victims.
The government announced last month it would investigate a list of 122 alleged mass grave compiled by victims' advocacy groups.
The killing began in October 1965, shortly after Suharto, an unknown major general at the time, blamed the deaths of several right-wing generals on an alleged coup attempt by members of the Communist Party, which was then the largest outside the Soviet Union and China with 3 million members.